In the Summer of ’81, we went to see my brother in Dallas – he looked a bit younger then – then lit out for the Grand Canyon. After spending the whole day there, we stopped for late lunch in closest town along the way. “We were standin’ on a corner in Flagstaff AZ, such a fine sight to see”, when we noticed Blanche’s Psychic Readings a couple doors down. She’d had a table set up for sidewalk readings but “the fortune-telling lady had already taken all her things inside”. We went in & haggled her down to $20 total for palm readings for all 4 of us. I went first & was greatly disappointed. She wanted nothing to do with me. My brother & our friend Carl (who pisses me off because he still looks the same, the Peter Panner) were both surprised by her knowledge of their lives. Then came Cindy, my girlfriend of 4 years. “‘You’re gonna marry a madman, Cindy.’, Blanche told her. ‘Why are you taking it for granted that I’m in something I want to get out of?’, she replied. ‘I’m not. I see it in your palm. What you are talking about is desire – just brutal Desire. Like the name of that rattle-trap streetcar that once banged through the French Quarter, up one old narrow street and down another.’. ‘Haven’t you ever ridden on that streetcar?’ ‘It brought me to Flagstaff. Where I’m not wanted & where I’m ashamed to be.’”, Blanche responded. Um,…,Cindy & I are still together; married now; 31 years!
Elia Kazan’s A Streetcar Named Desire stars Vivien Leigh (best known as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind) as Blanche DuBois, an attractive, Southern belle who is fast approaching what was considered middle-age for women of the time. Her expensive tastes & elegance are a thin veil for a troubled, shallow alcoholic with delusions of grandeur when she arrives in the post-World War II French Quarter, New Orleans. She’s come to live for while with her sister Stella (Kim Hunter) & her brother-in-law Stanley (Marlon Brando) because she’s lost the family’s Mississippi estate, Belle Reve, to creditors. Karl Malden is fantastic as Mitch, Stanley’s best friend & Blanche’s love interest in New Orleans. Of the 4 main characters, only Brando didn’t receive the Academy Award for which he was nominated. Streetcar also won the Black & White Art Direction Oscar. The rest of Streetcar’s amazing 12 Oscar nominations were for: Black & White Costume Design, Black & White Cinematography, Best Picture, Director, and Sound Recording; Alex North’s jazz score (the first such for a motion picture) is perfect for a film about the seedy side of New Orleans; and Tennessee Williams received the Best Screenplay nomination, but Oscar Saul, who adapted it, was not nominated. Saul is the definitive overlooked man, apparently. Not only was he bypassed for the Oscar nomination he deserved, but there are exactly ZERO photographs of him available on the internet. If you find one, please Email it to me (email@example.com) so I can update this Blog.
Brando was the first highly publicized Method actor. The Method is a widely regarded process created by Russian stage actor & director Constantin Stanislavski, and refined by Brando’s acting instructor Lee Strasberg (Hyman Roth in The Godfather Part II). In fact, Marlon was his prize protégé. With The Method, the actor becomes the character in all aspects of his life, not just while rehearsing & filming. Other famous Method actors include Daniel Day-Lewis & Dustin Hoffman. While making Lincoln, Day-Lewis made everyone including his family call him Mr. President or Mr. Lincoln. And Hoffman didn’t sleep for 3 days to experience the psychological trauma of his character, Babe, in Marathon Man. When his co-star, Sir Laurence Olivier, who hated The Method, saw how terrible Hoffman looked as a result, he told him, “Try acting, dear boy!”. Interestingly, Olivier & Vivien Leigh were married from 1940 – 1961. So click on the trailer below to head on over to the French Quarter on Elia Kazan’s A Sreetcar Named Desire, where you can add the brilliant movie to your Netflix Queue. 4 Stars!